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Greetings from The Booth!
It was great to see lots of Shenandoah University fans, athletes, coaches, and dignitaries this past Saturday in Winchester, braving a brisk 40-degree morning to be a part of the ribbon cutting of the renovated baseball and softball fields at Jim Barnett Park. The ceremony was culmination of creative thinking from SU and the City to give the Hornet softball and baseball programs a home field they can call their own, and also provide local teams like the Winchester Royals upgraded facilities they can be proud of. Speakers included emotional Hornet baseball coach Kevin Anderson, and Shenandoah President Dr. Tracy Fitzsimmons, who called the project a “win-win.” It was a great morning, one that I’m sure many thought would never come because of the challenges posed by COVID.
Well, it’s Masters Week, with golf’s first “major” set for this weekend at beautiful Augusta National. I’ll admit that for me, this was going to be a boring Masters. Many of the game’s top players are not on top of their game right now. New names we don’t really know have been winning golf tournaments in 2022. A name we do know, Phil Mickelson, has fallen from grace because of his controversial comments about the Saudis, and has self-isolated. He will not be a part of the 2022 Masters. I felt no “buzz” heading into this week.
Then came the appearance of Tiger Woods at Augusta. His early-week practice round drew large crowds, and there was much anticipation that he would give it a go on Thursday morning. Tiger confirmed the rumors on Tuesday, and the Masters was given the storyline it needed.
Tiger Woods believes he can win another green jacket this week, and said as much. He wouldn’t play otherwise. His competitive fires still burn. The issue this week, aside from making the cut (which would be an amazing story in it’s own right) is one of endurance. Tiger hasn’t played competitive golf since late 2020, three months before the car crash that almost took his leg, and could very well have taken his life. It remains to be seen if Woods can walk 4 consecutive days around a hilly Augusta National.
There’s also the fact that the top golfers in the world are also vying for one of golf’s top prizes. To beat the Masters field when you have your “A” game is tough enough, let alone when you are returning after 14 months. Win or lose, Tiger just playing at the 2022 Masters is the sport’s version of the Alex Smith story. Winning would be almost incomprehensible, and would certainly trump his win at Augusta in 2019.
But don’t count him out. Tiger Woods has a flair for the moment. He is well aware that another green jacket would give him six, which would tie him with the great Jack Nicklaus, a man Tiger still thinks he can catch in the race for all-time majors (18). Tiger is also well aware that winning the Masters would be arguably the greatest comeback story in sports history.
Reason enough to hope Tiger is prowling the back nine at Augusta National late Sunday afternoon.
Until the next visit from The Booth…enjoy the golf, and GO HORNETS!
Greetings From The Booth!
A quick nod to Shenandoah University Baseball, which won it’s 20th game Monday (4-19) by beating 3rd-ranked Salisbury 12-1. That is a big feather in the Hornet’s (baseball) cap, and barring any stumbles the rest of the week, should mean a jump in the National d3baseball.com poll. SU Baseball just seems to reload each year.
This week, former Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith announced his retirement from football, ending a 16-year NFL career. Before his stint in DC, Smith played 7 years for San Francisco, and 5 for Kansas City, earning Pro Bowl honors 3 times, while throwing for over 35-thousand yards and 199 TD passes.
But he will forever be known for one of the greatest comeback stories in sports history. In 2018, his first year with Washington, Smith was in the process of leading the burgundy-and-gold to a playoff berth at 6-4, when he suffered a horrific compound fracture of his leg in a Week-11 loss to Houston. As he was carted off the field, I’m not sure anyone thought Alex Smith would play football ever again.
Except Alex Smith. After 17 surgeries and a life-threatening infection, he battled back. After missing all of 2019, Smith made his way back to the WFT roster in 2020, albeit as the number-3 QB. because of ineffective play by Dwayne Haskins, and injuries to Kyle Allen, Smith took over and led Washington to a 5-1 record as the starter down the stretch, and into the playoffs, earning him the 2020 AP Comeback Player of the Year honor.
Just to survive and walk again is a miracle in itself. To play at a high level in the NFL is almost inconceivable. Very few players get to leave the game on their own terms. Just ask Joe Theismann, who suffered an injury much like Smith’s, and saw his own career end on a Monday Night game against the Giants on national TV. Usually, a player exits either too early or too late.
This is the right time for Alex Smith.
Until the next visit from The Booth…GO HORNETS!
SU Update, Cards Rout Nationals, Alex Smith Retires
On the Shenandoah University scoreboard, number-15 Baseball earned a big win by beating 3rd-ranked Salisbury 12-1 yesterday at Bridgeforth Field. The Hornets clobbered four home runs, and Calvin Pastel tossed a 3-hitter, as SU improved to 20-6. Baseball is back in action today when they host Bridgewater at 4.
The St. Louis Cardinals pounded out 12 hits on the way to a 12-5 win over the Nationals last night. Nats’ starter Joe Ross gave up 8 runs and 10 hits in four and a third innings of work, as Washington fell to 5-9 on the season. The Nationals host the Cardinals again tonight , starting at 6:35 on Sports Radio 1450.
In other Nationals’ news, pitcher Stephen Strasburg has been placed on the injured reserve list after an MRI revealed inflammation in his shoulder. There is no timetable for his return, although the Nats hope his absence will not be long.
And, former Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith has announced his retirement. His 16-year NFL career includes a stint in DC, in which he came back from a life-threatening compound leg fracture and led the WFT to a playoff berth last year. Smith was the AP Comeback Player of the Year last season and was 5-1 as a starter for Washington.
Greetings from The Booth!
Nice to be back after a week on “Winter Break,” which was spent mostly bonding with my new puppy (I have the chew marks on my hand to prove it) and digging out cars from my driveway. No trip to Cancun this year…
Although I won’t be at Jopson Field to broadcast , the Shenandoah University Hornets are going to play a football game Saturday against Bridgewater. hard to believe, but the last time SU played football was mid-November of 2019. Because of COVID restrictions at BC, this will be only the 3rd game since the start of the program in 2000 that I will not be doing the play-by-play. Good luck to Coach Scott Yoder’s squad on Saturday afternoon!
Well, since everyone else has weighed in on the Tiger Woods car crash yesterday, I might as well add my take, and it’s probably nothing earth-shattering. I was somewhat amazed at the wall-to-wall news coverage, which reminded me of the infamous OJ Bronco chase from years ago.
While there is no real discussion of alcohol being involved in the crash, deputies have mentioned that the vehicle, a rented SUV, was travelling at a high rate of speed on the winding California road. Until the investigation is complete, there is only speculation. There is some talk that he was possibly late for an engagement and was hurrying to get to the appearance. Having a driver (not the golf-club variety), as so many high-profile celebs do, might have prevented the crash, but that is hindsight.
With Tiger’s injuries including several compound fractures, I couldn’t help but think of Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith and his amazing comeback from a gruesome leg injury. It took Smith 2 seasons and many surgeries before he got back on the field in 2020-21. And he isn’t 45 like Tiger. It will be a long road back.
That being said, Tiger Woods isn’t your grandfather’s 45 year-old pro golfer, with pot belly and cigarette hanging out of his mouth. He is a fitness fanatic, who would love nothing better than to step on to a tee box again, prove everyone wrong, and add yet another chapter to a career already filled with comebacks.
The book isn’t closed yet, but Augusta National won’t be the same this Spring…
Until the next visit from The Booth, Get Well Tiger, and GO HORNETS! BEAT BC!
Brady And Bucs Win SB 55, Young & Smith Garner NFL Awards, Caps Drop Third Straight
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won Super Bowl 55 yesterday in dominating fashion by a score of 31-9over the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium. Tom Brady threw 3 touchdown passes, including 2 to familiar target Rob Gronkowski, and the Tampa Bay defense kept Patrick Mahomes and the KC offense out of the end zone for the entire contest. Brady picked up his record fifth Super Bowl MVP award and becomes just the second quarterback to win a Super Bowl with 2 different teams.
Over the weekend, the league handed out it’s NFL Honors awards and Washington’s Chase Young was named Defensive Rookie of the Year, while WFT quarterback Alex Smith was named Comeback Player of the Year. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers earned his third MVP award.
Peyton Manning leads the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2021, which was also named this weekend. Also joining Manning among the 8 inductees are Charles Woodson and Calvin Johnson.
To the NHL, where the Washington Capitals lost their third straight game yesterday, a 7-4 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers. Philly broke 4-4 tie with a 3-goal third period, as the Caps fell to 6-3-3 on the season. Alex Ovechkin had 2 goals and 2 assists for the Capitals, who return to the ice tomorrow at 6 against the Flyers.
On the Shenandoah University docket, Men’s Basketball will play at Hampden-Sydney tonight at 7, while the Hornet Women entertain Ferrum this evening at 7 at the Wilkins Center.
Greetings from The Booth!
It was “one and done” for The Washington Football Team on Super Wild Card Weekend, as the burgundy and gold lost to the ageless Tom Brady and the Bucs , as expected, 31-23. But the 7-9 WFT didn’t go down without a fight, and earned the respect of Tampa and a lot of the NFL who thought they didn’t earn a seat at the post-season table.
(At this point, I need to veer off-track with a few random thoughts. Why is the much-heralded Washington front four nicknamed “Maroon-4”? I get the reference to the musical group, but maroon isn’t one of the team colors. I’m reminded of former Redskins coach Jim Zorn, who in his opening press conference upon being hired, asked for “3 cheers for the old maroon and black.”
And, did you see the comparison-photos of 43 year-old Brady and 43 year-old George Blanda from back in the day? Blanda looked 70, while Brady looked 25. I’m pretty sure the reason is that in the late 60s, Blanda had no access to dieticians, massage therapists, and yoga pants. But the difference was striking.)
Anyway, on Saturday night, the WFT acquitted itself nicely, thanks to the efforts of instant folk hero Taylor Heinicke, who in his first start as Washington QB, almost single handedly willed his team to victory. The former ODU signal caller even came back out of the locker room late in the game after a shoulder injury, and in a “Willis Reed” moment, got the WFT within a TD at 28-23.
As disappointing as the loss was, it felt like more of a beginning than an end. In the last 20-plus years of the Dan Snyder regime, the playoff appearances have been few and far between, the post-season wins even more rare. And the playoff exits always felt like the end, rather than something to build on the following year. Even “Joe Gibbs 2.0″seemed like like a magic act performed with smoke and mirrors.
Saturday night’s loss felt different. Much has been written about the exciting young defensive line, led by rookie captain Chase Young. But there are some exciting young stars on the offensive side of the ball, and while this year might be the final chapter of the feel-good story of Alex Smith, and the end of Ryan Kerrigan’s time in DC, there is a lot to be hopeful about in 2021.
In a tumultuous year for the organization on many fronts, head coach Ron Rivera navigated his team through the rough waters of 2020 to a division title and playoff appearance, despite his own personal challenges. For that, he should at least be considered for Coach Of The Year honors.
We all know too well that ownership could mess things up without even trying, but Saturday night felt like the start of something big.
Until the next visit, so long from The Booth. GO WFT, GO HORNETS!
In this week’s Sports Dogs Podcast, I’m joined by Honorary Dog Scott Bradley as we break down some of the games on NFL Super Wild Card Weekend, specifically the Washington Football Team’s matchup against Tom Brady and the Bucs. We’ll also talk about the feel-good stories of Ron Rivera and Alex Smith, as well as our predictions for Saturday night.
Greetings from The Booth!
Welcome to 2021, hopefully a year that brings an end to the pandemic, and a return to all things “normal,” like concerts, fairs, movies, and fans at sporting events. Before we move on to this week’s topic, many thanks to all of you who told us how much you enjoyed our “This Week In Shenandoah University Football” segments over the past several months. It was great to re-live some great memories from the last 20 years in “The Booth.”
For the first time since 2015, the Washington Football Team is headed to the NFL playoffs following Sunday’s 20-14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. At 7-9, the WFT is only the third team with a losing record to make the postseason in a non-strike year. After a 2-7 start, Washington finished 5-2 to get into the playoffs as the NFC East champions. Much has been written about the feel-good stories of both Coach Ron Rivera, who battled cancer during the season, and QB Alex Smith, who should easily win the NFL Comeback Player Of The Year award.
Those two things, combined with the name change of the team, the negative publicity surrounding Dan Snyder and the culture within the organization, and the continuing drama of Dwayne Haskins, made for a season that was “so 2020,” as the saying now goes. It was only fitting that the WFT won the division almost by default.
Which brings me to this past Sunday night. In a game that the Eagles basically handed to Washington, the burgundy-and-gold on several occasions tried to give it back, before finally securing the victory. Philly coach Doug Pederson made several questionable decisions, including giving up what would have been a tying chip-shot field goal late in the game, instead going for the TD on fourth-and-goal (which failed). The most questionable move (just ask Giants fans) was replacing future franchise quarterback Jalen Hurts with backup Nate Sudfeld in the fourth quarter, which also backfired.
Many have accused Pederson of “tanking” the game to improve the team’s position in the draft, and one could make that case based on “the eye test.” This was not a good look for the NFL, which flexed the game to prime time, only to see two teams playing hot potato. Surely there will be more discussion about the “integrity of the game” in the weeks to come.
To the Giants (and their livid fan base), who needed an Eagles win to secure the division title, you should have taken care of business with a few more wins during the season. When you rely on help from other teams in a playoff scenario, you seldom get it. Washington fans have been there. If a 7-9 record isn’t playoff worthy to some, 6-10 shouldn’t even get a sniff of the postseason.
Someone had to win the “NFC Least,” and this year it’s the Washington Football Team, who now have to prepare for the GOAT Tom Brady, and the Bucs. The WFT is going to be looked down upon, much like the poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks who somehow crashes the country club soiree. In the words of Judge Smails, played by the great Ted Knight in the movie Caddyshack, “some people just do not belong.”
But don’t forget, this is the 2020 season, and Washington is playing with house money.
Until next time from The Booth, HTTWFT! and GO HORNETS!
Smith Wins Heisman, Manning Leads HOF Finalists, Rivera May Rotate QB’s
Alabama’s Devonta Smith outdistanced Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence to win the Heisman Trophy last night in a virtual ceremony. Smith is the first wide receiver to win the coveted award since 1991. The other finalists were Smith’s teammate Mac Jones, and Florida QB Kyle Trask.
Peyton Manning leads the list of finalists for this year’s Pro Football Hall Of Fame class. Other finalists include defensive back Charles Woodson, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, and defensive end Jared Allen. As many as five of the finalists will be chosen later this month for enshrinement.
Ahead of Saturday’s playoff game with Tampa Bay, Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera said yesterday he is considering rotating quarterbacks Alex Smith and Taylor Heinicke in Wild Card contest. Smith led Washington to Sunday night’s win over the Eagles, and was 5-1 as a starter this year, but is still favoring a calf injury suffered several weeks ago. The game is scheduled for 8:15 at Fed-Ex Field.
And, in college hoop tonight, number-22 Virginia hosts Wake Forest tonight at 9, while number-19 Virginia Tech travels to Louisville for a 6:30 tip-off.